Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was suspended two games without pay Friday for an illegal hit to the head of Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner in the first period of Thursday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Toronto.
Sergachev also was fined $48,000 — a total determined by the collective bargaining agreement based on Sergachev’s salary — following a hearing with the Player Safety Department.
Sergachev will miss the Lightning’s games Saturday afternoon in Ottawa and Tuesday with the Carolina Hurricanes at Amalie Arena.
“It’s unfortunate news for him, for our team here, especially coming off a tough loss,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “We want to bounce back. He’s a … huge part of our team back there.
“He plays a ton of minutes, but we’ll treat it like it’s an injury at this point. At least you know when he’s back. A lot of times with injuries, you don’t know (when a player will be back). It’ll be two games (out for Sergachev), but our focus is on trying to find a way to win a game (today).”
On the play leading up to the hit, Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman lost the puck to Marner in the neutral zone and was called for hooking Marner as the forward closed in on the Tampa Bay net. After that call, Sergachev threw a shoulder to the side of Marner’s head as he skated by, drawing a penalty for an illegal check to the head and raising the ire of the Maple Leafs.
The Maple Leafs immediately went after Sergachev following the whistle, led by captain John Tavares.
The two Lightning penalties created a two-minute, 5-on-3 power play in the final minutes of the period for the Maple Leafs, but the Lightning killed off the penalties and took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The absence of Sergachev, who ranks third on the Lightning with an average ice time of 22:12, will mean more playing time for less-used defensemen, such as Jan Rutta (14:14), Andrej Sustr (10:35) and Cal Foote (9:42 in two games since returning from injury).
Hedman (25:24), McDonagh (22:47) and Erik Cernak (21:20) likely won’t get more time, assistant coach Rob Zettler said.
“I kind of like those guys at those minutes,” Zettler said. “But maybe it gets to be a little bit of a stretch, and that’s asking a lot (to play them more).”
The Lightning on Friday recalled defenseman Fredrik Claesson from AHL Syracuse for additional depth.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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